A forewarning: The novel will be fast-paced, at times it will more than likely be difficult to follow. It switches between Bonnie's and Kat's view points. I will not label the narrator. If it helps, the quote at the beginning of each chapter will never be by the narrator. There will be some fluff, but it's not a main plot point.
"To con is to lie. To lie is to act. To act is to con." -Katarina Eltsina
Every good thief knows they must trust their team. Whether they happen to be dangling from the roof of a building, hoping their partner doesn't let them plummet to their death or distracting a security guard, hoping their partner can steal their target in time, they must rely on the other person. There are no exceptions to this rule, one of the most important rules for any con team.
This rule applies now, as I drunkenly stumble into the small, private museum with very little security. We are the second situation at the moment. I can't help but wonder why I'm the one wandering to the nearest security guard wearing the sluttiest outfit I have ever put on in my life. I'm no con woman, no swindler, no grifter. Cons are my life, but I do not con.
I am the tech girl, the computer geek, the hacker. I should not be standing here in front of this guard sobbing as Jon's voice comes in through the earpiece, speaking words of encouragement.
Jon is without a doubt the brains of our team, the leader. When our head con woman, Katarina, backed out of this job with little explanation, he made the call to put me in. After all, you can't run the, 'Slutty, Distraught Mom,' con, without a slutty, distraught mom.
My eyes poor out tears as I occupy this exhibits only attendant. I spew out my story, "Have you seen my little girl? Tell me you've seen her. She's six years old, her name is Ariel. She's blonde with blue eyes, about this tall? Please tell me you've seen her?"
My story doesn't matter though. All that does is the plunging neckline on this dress. Yes, he is looking down my shirt. If I were to turn around, his eyes would find the short hemline of the dress. If I were to bend over… Well, he would have an interesting view.
The man's brown eyes finally leave my chest and greet my face. He calls in the missing child information, asking me to repeat the information. I watch Kyle, our thief, slip into the room, before he's out of sight. I repeat my description, my sentences broken by sobs.
"You're doing good, Bonnie. Kyle is just about done," Jon's voice informs me.
"I turned my back for two seconds to look at a painting and when I looked back, she was gone!" I sob.
Kyle slips out in a crowd of tourists. I only notice him because I'm looking for him.
Two minutes after he is gone, another guard comes to the hall, holding a hysterical six year old by her hand.
"Ariel!" I shout, feigning a sense of relief.
"Mommy!" she pulls away from the guard and runs to hug me. I chastise her and she apologizes. With many thanks to the guards, we leave the museum and clamber into a red Ford F150 that I rented. As soon as the doors are shut and the seatbelts are on, she turns to me.
"So do I get ice-cream now? Like you promise?"
I smile at my little cousin. "Yes. You get ice-cream, Lexi."
"Yay!" she claps her hands excitedly.
Into my earpiece I say, "I'll meet up with you guys later. I need to get Lexi back to her mother."
"But ice-cream first!"
"But ice-cream first," I inform my team.
"Okay, Bonnie. We'll see you in a few hours," Jon tells me.
Lexi and I drive to the nearest ice-cream shop and I allow her to get anything she wants. Being six years old, she orders far more than she can eat, with a ridiculous amount of toppings. Her mother will kill me when she reaches the sugar high.
We climb back into the truck and I think about how odd it will be to talk to my cousin, Jessica. This is the first time I've been home since I was eighteen. I left about five years ago, when Jon formed our team.
I was raised in a family of con artists. My mother was a thief, my father a swindler, my grandmother an expert embezzler in her time. One of my many great times grandfather stole the crown jewels, back. He stole them from the thief that first stole them. The business spreads out to the whole family, including the cousin whose daughter I borrowed. My mother said Jessica was in town. I hunted her down, explained the con, and asked for the use of my little cousin. She agreed, raising Lexi as a con woman anyway, and all I needed to do was promise Lexi ice-cream.
I park the truck at the park and we search for Jessica. She's sitting on a bench in the middle of the park, looking the picture of an innocent mother, though I know she is far from innocent.
I plop down next to my cousin on the bench. We don't look at each other. There are no hellos, no excited hugs, we just watch Lexi climb all over the jungle gym. After a moment, Jessie asks, "How'd it go?"
"Well," I answer. "How's life?"
"It's been alright. I came back to talk to Uncle Jimmy about some things. Lexi sure is growing up, isn't she?"
"Yeah. She was just a little baby last time I saw her."
"I know." Her green eyes wander over to meet my grey ones. It's been a long time since I've seen a family member without color contacts in. Then again, I'm not wearing any myself. "You've grown up too, Bonnie."
She's right, I have. I've grown up, yet I haven't changed much. My hair is still a plain chocolate brown. My eyes are still the colorless grey that I disguise with contacts. People still describe me as mousy. I still blend into a crowd, even when I'm standing in the front. I'm here, but I remain unseen. That is one of the best qualities in a thief, though. The chameleon skill, as Kat calls it.
Jessica has changed though. The last time I saw her, she had flowing blonde hair down to the middle of her back. Now it can't be more than two inches long. She's wearing clothing that covers most of her body and she looks… like her mom. She's no longer the rebellious young thief I left behind.
"Have you kept in touch with the family at all, Bonnie?" she asks. I shake my head sadly. I've been fleeing from country to country to country over the last five years. I haven't had time to get in touch with anyone. Besides, addresses, phone numbers, and emails are only temporary. There's no guarantee my message would get through. In my eyes, that means there is no point to sending the message.
"Uncle Will was arrested last month," she informs me.
My jaw drops, literally. My father is usually much more careful than that. He's been tailed by the FBI, the CIA, and Interpol, and gotten away without a scratch. "How?"
"Sydney." It's a rather simple answer, but it saddens me. Sydney is the only family member who isn't a thief, who is the exact opposite of a thief. She works for the police. She's a cop. She's also my baby sister.
Jessica continues, "She was promoted. She had been trying to get into the FBI but with our family's…interesting background, they didn't trust her. When she arrested your dad, they figured she was legitimately interested in becoming an agent. Your little sister is a spy."
"She's probably going to try to arrest the whole family," I mumble.
She nods in agreement. "You had best be going."
Her eyes leave my face and wander over to a surveillance team that I have already noticed.
"Good luck," I say. Lexi runs over and I hug her goodbye, then I get into the truck once more and drive over to the motel we're staying at. I park and head to Jon's room.
This particular job was an odd one. We were hired to steal the vase that is currently sitting on the table. We don't know why, it isn't the world's most valuable vase, but we were paid very well. We didn't ask questions.
Kat is sitting on the bed. With her luxurious black hair, brilliant green eyes, and perfect curves, she would have been far better for this con that me. Yet, she didn't want any part of this job. She practically begged us not to take it, but she couldn't give us an explanation. When we asked why, she would simply responded, "Rule number four."
-Rule number four for thieves: Don't ask, don't tell (about your past.)
Kat has a very scary past. When Jon found her she was an arsonist and an assassin, damn good, too. Very little scares her. She's the fighter of the group, the one willing to do anything dangerous, more for the adrenaline rush than for the monetary gain.
Jon sits in one of the table chairs. He's recently let his hair go back to its natural blonde color and grown it out a little. His crystal blue eyes watch me as I enter the room. "You look like you were given bad news."
"Rule number four."
He nods and resumes his study of the vase.
Kyle is sitting in the final chair, right across from Jon. His red hair is cut short, his brown eyes glued to the vase, wondering the same thing we all are. What the hell is so special about this little vase?
The last member of our team is sitting on the floor. Benjamin is usually our inside man, but this job didn't require one. He watched the cameras for me while I was inside running the con. Ben isn't studying the vase. Honestly, his green eyes are studying Kat, if I'm not mistaken. His red-brown hair is only an inch or so long.
I pull Jon's suitcase out from under the bed and put on one of his white, long sleeved, button up shirts. The neckline on the dress is just too low for me.
"Adriano will pick up the vase in half an hour," Jon tells me. "We get the other half of the payment then. Bonnie, in the trunk of the car is the first half of the payment." He tosses me the keys. "You can get it and divvy it up."
"I'm stopping in my room first," I inform him as I head out the door. When I enter my room, I changed out of the dress entirely, throw on some jeans, and put Jon's shirt back on. Then I head outside to the black Pontiac Gran Pri that Jon rented. I unlock the trunk and grab the rolling suitcase. When I reenter Jon's room, I toss the suitcase onto the bed Kat isn't on. I toss Jon the keys back and begin dividing up the cash. One hundred thousand dollars split among five people is twenty thousand apiece, easy. However, when I go to give Kat her share, she refuses.
"I want nothing to do with this job. Not even the payment."
I nod and redo the math. We all end up with twenty-five thousand instead. Easy money. I do my own mental math to add this into my savings, then smile. It's just enough.
Kat leaves the room for a moment, and Kyle and Ben begin speculating her reasoning for refusing this con. Their reasoning gets pretty crazy in the five minutes Kat is gone. When Kat walks back in, she brings a Doberman on a leash with her. She unhooks the leash and he jumps onto me and licks my face.
"He missed you," Kat informs me.
The dog climbs onto the bed and rests his head in my lap. He was a gift from Kat a few years ago, after we ran, 'The Blind Man,' con. He was a shelter dog that Kat adopted to play the part of Kyle's seeing eye dog. Because it amused her, she named the Doberman Clyde and gave him to me. We've been Bonnie and Clyde ever since.
Jon cell phone buzzes and he glances at the screen. "Change of plans. Ban, Kyle, we're going to take the vase to Adriano. Kat, Bonnie, you stay here."
The guys grab their guns and head out the door, leaving Kat and I alone in the room. The job is a little more shady than we'd like it to be and I don't blame them for taking the guns.
I walk over to my room and take Clyde with me. I don't need a leash to get him to come. He loves me enough to just follow. When I enter the room, I pull my suitcase out of the closet. I glance around the room, making sure I haven't left any clothes anywhere. Thieves learn to live out of a suitcase. We rarely leave something lying around. Much like spies, we keep nothing in our bags that we can't live without. There could come a time when we must leave without grabbing our bags, we have to be ready.
My laptop is already in the truck. It is the one possession that I can never leave behind. It's nearly unhackable (though nothing truly is) and it's the computer I use for everything. It's the computer I use to recreate our identities every time we need to.
I pull my phone from my pocket and set it on the nightstand. I pull several IDs, birth certificates, passports and other useful paperwork out of my bag and place them on the nightstand, before closing my suitcase.
"Going somewhere?" Kat asks, while my back is to the door. I jump, not having heard her come in.
"Do you really have to do that?"
"Old habits die hard," she answers. She tosses me Clyde's leash. "If you're leaving, you'll need that."
"Thanks," I answer.
The exchange is rather simple, we know. Thieves are people of few words. We don't question each other's actions, don't talk about our past, don't sit around and talk about our emotions. We're quiet, it allows us to stay hidden. It's another habit that's hard to break.
Clyde and I go out to the truck. I place the suitcase on the backseat, rather than in the truck bed, and start up the engine. Clyde lounges across the backseat like the spoiled mutt he is. I pull out of the parking lot and go over to my mother's most recent apartment. I had come to see her when I first came to town. She asked me to stop by before I left.
I park down the street, take me luggage, laptop, and dog, and walk to Mom's apartment. Rather than buzz me up, she comes down.
I resembled my mother. We're both average height, with average Caucasian skin tone. Her eyes are brown, like her hair. My eyes are the only thing I get from my father.
"Bonnie," she says with a smile and a hug. "I'm so glad you came. I've got a gift for you."
It's odd, to say the least. Gifts are…inconvenient for thieves, giving them, receiving them. It's inconvenient and we don't do it.
She walks a block down the street and Clyde and I follow. She stops beside a car and tosses me the keys. The car is a metallic blue, 1992 Ford Mustang. The seats are a bright green, and the steering wheel is purple. It's the convertible model, with the small backseat. It was my dad's car, when I was younger. He special ordered the seats, and hand painted the steering wheel. The car was his baby, but he was forced to sell it.
I stare at my mother. "Are you serious?"
She nods. "She's all yours. Your dad didn't sell her after all. He had her stashed away… Well, never mind where. He was going to give her to you the next time he saw you, but-"
"I heard about Sydney," I spare her of the awkward story. She nods again.
"It's her life. I guarantee we'll here about your father's jail break within the month.
"True enough." I place the suitcase in the trunk, my laptop on the floor of the passenger seat, and let Clyde lounge on the backseat like always. I hug my mother before climbing into the driver's seat, leaving the top down. I toss my mother the keys to the truck, asking her to return it to the rental agency. Then I put the car into drive and pull into the street, without looking back.